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Dental Protection urges Government to protect dentists from the rising cost of clinical negligence

Post date: 12/11/2018 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018

Dental Protection is calling on the Government to introduce a package of legal reforms that would protect dentists from the spiralling cost of clinical negligence claims. These include:

  • a fixed recoverable cost scheme - to stop lawyers charging disproportionate legal fees
  • an increase in the small claims track threshold for clinical negligence claims up to £5,000 – so more low level, straightforward claims are routinely managed within the small claims track and the cost of these claims are reduced
  • a minimum threshold for cash compensation relating to claims for minor injuries - to reduce the cumulative cost of damage pay-outs where only very minor injuries are sustained.

The rising cost of clinical negligence claims against doctors and wider the NHS has received significant attention in recent years. The NHS spent £2.2bn on clinical negligence claims last year – a 30% increase over the previous year. This has led to the Government pledging to introduce a clinical negligence strategy to control the amount of NHS funding being spent on claims.

However, Dental Protection believes the impact of rising clinical negligence costs on dentists has received insufficient attention and is urging the Government to ensure that the forthcoming strategy tackles this problem head on.

Without reform, there is significant concern that the cost of clinical negligence claims will continue to rise. This is especially concerning given the substantial number of claims received relating to the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease, which ‘no-win, no-fee’ lawyers increasingly target due to higher financial rewards for them.

Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said:

“It is not unusual for the costs awarded to claimant lawyers to be significantly higher than the damages paid to the patient – sometimes it can be two or three times higher. This situation is inequitable and unreasonable and we are working with the Government to address this problem.

“We also need action to ensure straightforward claims are dealt with in a more proportionate way and also to stop claims from being taken forward in the first place when only minor inconveniences have arisen.

 “As well as calling on the Government to reduce legal costs, Dental Protection continues to

provide learning and development opportunities to help dentists avoid claims and litigation from occurring”.

A recent Dental Protection survey of over 1,100 dentist members revealed that nine out of ten dentists (89%) are increasingly fearful of being sued by patients. The survey also showed that a full time dentist in the UK can now expect to receive two claims over a typical career.

Two examples of cases in which the legal costs of the clinical negligence claims have been higher than the damages paid:

Case study 1: The failure to diagnose a palatal cyst UL3 area resulted in a claim being brought. Damages were agreed in the sum of £15,000. The original Bill of Costs submitted was for £93,043.65. Costs were substantially reduced by negotiation to £30,000.  However, this figure was twice the amount of damages paid.

Case study 2: The failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease which resulted in up to four years of intensive treatment. Damages were agreed in the sum of £6,000. The original Bill of Costs submitted was for £32,541. Costs were reduced to £22,500 which was still considerably higher than the damages paid. In addition the case also required the use of the MPS external panel solicitors to assist in defending the matter on behalf of our member. The additional legal fees were £3,035.60.

END

Notes to editor:

The Dental Protection member survey ran from 8 March to 25 March 2018 and received 1129 responses from UK dentists.

For further information contact patricia.canedo@medicalprotection.org (+44) 207 640 5183.

About Dental Protection

Dental Protection is a registered trademark and a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support together with the right to request indemnity for complaints or claims arising from professional practice.  

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.

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